H&R Block Expands Its Tax Base

Electronic filing delivers the boost that diversification didn't

Henry W. Bloch has led a charmed life. The tax-preparation outfit that he co-founded in 1955 with his brother, Richard, in a Kansas City (Mo.) second-story office now rules the business. H&R Block Inc.'s 9,000-odd outlets handle roughly 14 million tax returns a year worldwide and have helped the $1.1 billion company deliver a return on equity of 27% and record earnings in all but one of its 36 years. Even so, Bloch has spent more than a decade diversifying into everything from computer data bases to legal services. He figured his maturing tax business would inevitably lose its oomph.

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